Red Sox Reeling After Patriots Day Implosion

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara reacts as he leaves the game with the bases loaded during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

It has only been two losses, but they’ve been memorably bad ones

Sunday the Red Sox lack of bullpen depth and a flurry of highly questionable lineup decisions by manager John Farrell combined to cost the Red Sox a shot at their fourth straight win.

Monday might have been worse.

Patriots Day, the Boston Marathon, the 11 am start, the three year anniversary of the bombings.

The Red Sox had plenty of reasons to come out and win, and instead they managed to find some new ways to lose.

It started with another John Farrell lineup decision. Sure David Ortiz hits righties better than lefties, but as far as power-hitting lefties go, Ortiz actually does hit left-handed pitchers pretty well.

Instead Red Sox fans were treated to the Josh Rutledge starting third baseman season debut. This was probably exactly what the Fenway Faithful had in mind when they purchased their Patriots Day tickets.

Monday’s Patriots Day contest will most definitely be one that Sox fans won’t forget. Unfortunately the reasons for that are not all that good.

The good was Clay Buchholz making what was by far his best start of the young season. Buchholz lasted 6.2 innings,  and threw 97 pitches. He allowed six hits, walked two, struck out two, and kept the potent Jays offense off the scoreboard. Buchholz departed with two outs in the sixth and Red Sox fans got to watch Junichi Tazawa throw two pitches to get the final out of the frame.

The game was still memorable after that, but for all the wrong reasons.

Koji Uehara came in to work the eighth and looked as if he had aged about 30 more years.

His fastball was flat, his splitter was all over the place, but not over the strike zone.

Rutledge helped to open the floodgates with an errant throw on an infield single by Kevin Pillar. That put the tying run on second with none out. Under normal circumstances Koji Uehara can work his way out of that jam. Monday would not qualify as “normal circumstances.”

Uehara walked the very strikeout prone Justin Smoak. Jays manager John Gibbons inserted Dawrin Barney as a pinch-runner.  It got even stranger when catcher/savior Christian Vazquez allowed a passed ball which moved both Jays runners into scoring position. When Michael Saunders grounded out to shortstop, the game was tied.

Uehara then hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch and walked Jose Bautista. The bases were loaded, there was one out. Uehara had thrown 25 pitches, only 11 were for strikes and the Red Sox were in a major jam.

No problem, the Red Sox could just dial up the bullpen and bring in Craig Kimbrel. Surely Kimbrel could escape this jam.

When Kimbrel got Edwin Encarnacion to strike out, it looked like the Sox would escape. There were two outs and the bases were still loaded but the Jays three best hitters were in the rear view mirror and Kimbrel would surely be able to figure out a way to retire Troy Tulowitzki.

Kimbrel walked Tulowitzki, that made the score 2-1 Jays and that would have been fine had it not been for a painful to watch Russell Martin single that scored two more runs and made the score 4-1.

Watching Kimbrel and Uehara implode was probably the last thing that Red Sox fans or members of the Red Sox organization had in mind when they woke up Monday morning.

The Red Sox mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth. They plated two runs, enough to win had Kimbrel been able to retire Russell Martin one frame earlier, instead John Farrell was forced to bring David Ortiz in to pinch hit for Chris “needs-the-at-bats” Young.

Over his illustrious career David Ortiz had never struck out in a walk-off situation. He didn’t always come through, but as all baseball fans know, he comes through quite often.

Not on Monday. Ortiz watched as Jays reliever Drew Storen threw strike three right by him. The pitch was borderline at-best but the results were not. The Red Sox lost a painful Patriots Day contest 4-3.

Tuesday, the Red Sox will welcome another AL East squad to Boston. The Tampa Bay Rays come to town. Unlike the Orioles and Blue Jays, the Rays are powered by their pitching, not their bats.

The Red Sox will avoid having to face the rapidly improving Matt Moore, but they’ll have to deal with Cy Young contender Chris Archer on Wednesday. Jake Odorizzi takes the hill on Thursday.

Tuesday night’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 pm. Joe Kelly (1-0, 10.13) takes on Drew Smyly (0-2, 4.61)

A Sox win would be a nice way to put a terrible Patriots Day in the rear view mirror.

 

About the Author

Ben Shapiro

Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog.

I’ve previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and MassLive.com

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